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RV Tech Q&A: August 2019

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine


Test the Water

Question iconI found water in my RV’s belly when it was opened to check a valve. I brought it to my dealer and was told it was road water and that this is common. Have you ever heard of this, and how to remedy it?

Jack Fainer | Seymour, Connecticut

Answer icon
It’s certainly possible for roadway water to be kicked up by the tires and make its way into the enclosed underbelly by way of crevices and cracks, Jack. As a first step, you should inspect the underbelly to look for any obvious large holes that are “in the line of fire.” Many of those can be sealed with RTV acrylic caulk.

You can also work your way around the rig’s underside to be sure the entire underbelly material is securely fastened in place so there aren’t any significant gaps for water entry. You can seal some of the joints between the underbelly and frame, but keep in mind that belly material needs to be removable for service work so it will take some consideration concerning which joints should be sealed.

When the trailer is parked and the underbelly area has had time to dry out, inspect for leakage again. Normally the water will stop leaking after a short while. If water is still dripping, the underbelly material needs to be released in the suspected area and inspected for leakage from the plumbing system.

Electric Towing

Question iconWhen I went for a ride in my grandson’s new Tesla, a few questions popped into my mind. First, can a Tesla, or any electric car, be flat-towed behind a motorhome, or must they be towed on a trailer? My grandson’s Tesla is all-wheel-drive. Of course, I don’t think campgrounds are going to like me using the 50-amp receptacle for a motorhome and the 30-amp to charge my car!

Second, are any RV manufacturers looking into electric-powered motorhomes?
I understand Tesla is testing a few electric-powered 18-wheelers on the road. It would
be great to tow an electric-powered car behind an electric-powered motorhome.

Third, I understand that Tesla is coming out with an electric-powered pickup in the near future; any ideas on towing capacity or range on these? I’m sure you will want to test one of these trucks.

Franklin Kircher | Pitman, New Jersey

Answer icon
Not only can a Tesla not be flat-towed, it must be towed on a trailer, not a dolly with two wheels on the ground. According to the manufacturer, towing it any way except on a trailer will void the warranty, to say nothing of damaging the car.

Electric propulsion power is very much on RV engineers’ minds these days. So far, only Winnebago has released an electric-powered motorhome model, but it’s not quite ready for recreational use. It has a limited range per charge — between 85 and 125 miles — so it’s best used for short-range applications such as a bloodmobile or bookmobile that travels to a specific local destination within a city, then returns at night to a home base for recharging. A practical all-electric RV for long-range travel is probably coming, but it’s not quite here yet.

If Tesla, Rivian or any other manufacturer produces an electric-powered pickup — or any other vehicle, for that matter — with a useful tow rating and driving range, you can bet we’ll test it as soon as we can get our hands on one.


Garden hose flow meterQuestion iconIn your response to Leon Steele’s “Water-Tank Capacity” letter in the June issue, you said you knew of no garden-hose flowmeter. I purchased one on Amazon last year that reads gallons and liters, and cost less than $30. I don’t remember the make or model, but Amazon has several different kinds. I use it to fill my RV’s 90-gallon water tank to half full for travel. It seems to be accurate. I didn’t change the battery in it this year, and it works fine.

Denis Jenkins | Valparaiso, Indiana

Answer icon
Thanks for the tip. I verified it by typing “garden hose flow meter” into Amazon’s search box, and a variety of them came up. It seems like an excellent hardware solution for someone who wants to determine water capacities for an RV.

Heavy Toy-Hauler Door

Question iconMy husband and I have a 2013 Forest River Vengeance 399V toy hauler. When we purchased it new, we didn’t think to try lifting the ramp door while we were at the dealership before purchasing it. We didn’t realize how extremely heavy the door is until we had already signed the paperwork and had the trailer home. Over the years I’ve contacted the manufacturer, called several service centers and submitted questions on RV forums for a kit or something to help with the door issue, but with no luck.

See Related Story:
RV Clinic FAQ:
Top 20 Tech Questions

My husband has Parkinson’s disease, so the challenge to lift the cargo door has gotten worse over the years, not to mention that we are getting older. Our last off-roading trip was the final straw when the heavy door knocked both my husband and
me to the ground like bowling pins.

We’ve entertained the idea of trading the trailer in but are having issues finding a fifth-wheel toy hauler with a “true” 22-foot cargo area. We have two side-by-sides that we would like to fit into one triple-axle trailer with a separate bedroom. If you know of a manufacturer that we can check with, please let us know!

Teresa Chandler | Killeen, Texas

Answer icon
Your situation is unusual, Teresa, because most toy-hauler doors can be raised or lowered fairly easily by one person. The spring-loaded lift-assist mechanism normally does a good job of balancing out the load. There are five large coil springs that are part of the ramp-door hinge, providing the lifting force to help ease raising and lowering the door.

The most likely scenario is that one or more of those springs has broken, and depending on the location of the break, you might need to look very closely to see it. If this is the case, it should definitely be repaired by a dealer-authorized service center due to the dangerous torque and spring pressure on the parts.

Alternately, a shop that can handle custom work might be able to install a set of lift cables, like those on a castle drawbridge, to help with raising and lowering the door. With a cable on the door edge, pulleys on top of the door frame and large residential garage-door-type springs, you may be able to ease some of the force needed to set up or break down camp.

More Stabilizer Jack Looseness

Stabilizer jack scematic drawingQuestion iconIn the June issue, you responded to Michael Stone’s “Loosening Stabilizing Jacks” letter regarding his 2017 Prime Time Avenger. I have a 2018 Keystone Springdale 262RK, and I, too, have a problem with the stabilizing jacks loosening up and have to tighten them every couple of days. When I took it to the dealership to have it looked at, they informed me that is the way they work. To me, that just sounds like a factory malfunction, and nobody wants to take responsibility.

I have tried everything possible, just like you said, but they continue to loosen up. As you said, you are truly puzzled, but it does happen, and all I get from my dealership is that this is the way they are supposed to work.

Terry Kauffman | Sidney, Michigan

Question iconRegarding Michael Stone’s letter, I had a similar situation several years back with jacks made by BAL. The company advised me that washer number 15 in the parts diagram (above), part number P857067, labeled Spacer/Bearing washer, was missing. BAL sent out a set of four washers, which I installed, and the problem was corrected.

Donald Smith | Harlingen, Texas

Answer icon
From the reader mail we’ve received, it’s apparent that the loosening BAL stabilizer jack problem is more widespread than we realized. First, there are two models of scissors-
type jacks, standard and deluxe, the main difference being that the deluxe has a thrust bearing adjacent to the drive screw drive nut. The information here applies to both types.

There’s a rubber O-ring (number 16 in the parts diagram) between the drive nut head and the stationary trunnion. This O-ring acts as a brake to deter the threaded drive screw from turning by itself. If the O-ring is damaged or missing, vibration can cause the jack to loosen and lower itself during travel, for example. Two things can damage this O-ring: over-lubrication and excess force applied during jack deployment. Some oil carefully applied to the drive screw at the stationery trunnion is OK, but oil vigorously dumped on the O-ring area is not. The manufacturer, or perhaps your local RV-service center, has these O-rings readily available for replacement as needed, and it’s a fairly easy job that an owner can do.

An owner should never use an impact-type cordless drill/driver to deploy the jacks. That can apply far too much force on the mechanism and damage the O-ring. A simple cordless electric drill works fine. And once the jack extends and contacts the ground or a foot pad, discontinue tightening the screw — just ½ to 1 inch of lift tension is enough to stabilize the trailer. Remember, this is not a leveling jack; it’s only for stabilizing the trailer once it’s been leveled by other means.

Have a Tech Question?

Email [email protected] and include your full name and hometown. Selected letters will be answered in the monthly RV Clinic column, but time does not permit individual replies.

Jeff JohnstonJeff Johnston served as technical director of Trailer Life for 20 years and has been an RV enthusiast, mechanic and writer since he could hold a wrench. In his monthly RV Clinic column, Jeff replies to Trailer Life readers’ technical questions about RVs and tow vehicles. He also serves as associate producer of Rollin’ On TV, a nationally syndicated television program for RV enthusiasts.

Jeff JohnstonRV ClinicRV DIYRV Tech

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